The opening race of the WorldSBK Championship goes to Melandri on Ducati; the Pirelli tyres are put to a hard test but allow the lap time to be reduced by half a second compared to last year
The Italian finishes on the top step of the podium in Race 1 ahead of pole man Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) and teammate Chaz Davies, rough start for defending World Champion Jonathan Rea, fifth across the line
The first winner of the 31st MOTUL FIM World Superbike Championship season is Italian Marco Melandri who, astride his Ducati Panigale R managed by team Aruba.it Racing – Ducatiwon the opening race of the year on the Phillip Island circuit in Australia, finishing ahead of Kawasaki-riding pole man Tom Sykes and teammate Chaz Davies.
Marco Melandri celebrating the win on the podium
The Phillip Island circuit once again confirmed its reputation as one of the most demanding tracks on the calendar for the tyres, which are subjected to heavy and constant thermal-mechanical work, especially on the left side, and to overheating of an area at maximum lean angle that generates various forces with extremely strong torsion and oblique stress.
Despite the high level of stress to which they were subjected, in Race 1, the tyres Pirelli brought allowed all the riders to finish the 22 scheduled laps, but they also managed to reduce the total race time compared to 2017 by about twelve seconds, therefore guaranteeing an average improvement of half a second per lap compared to last year's best race lap. This is a demonstration of the development work that Pirelli constantly pursues to improve the top performance of their tyres year after year.
In Superpole®, the Italian Ducati rider managed to earn a spot on the front row with the third best time behind Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) who was in top form and a rediscovered Eugene Laverty with his team Milwaukee Aprilia.
At the start of the race, Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) got off the grid fast straight away, but it was Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) who started better than the rest, moving up four positions and settling in behind his teammate. Behind them, Marco Melandri succeeded in holding onto third position ahead of Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) and the first of the independent bikes, the Ducati ridden by Xavi Forés (Barni Racing Team). At the end of the second lap, Melandri came dangerously close to Rea, whereas during the third lap. Forés managed to get past Laverty. Chaz Davies was in sixth position while the factory Yamaha riders, Lowes and Van Der Mark, contended for seventh.
From the seventh lap, Rea began to gain ground on Tom Sykes, who was leading the race with a one second advantage.
Just before the mid-race point, Van Der Mark managed to overtake both his teammate and Laverty, moving into sixth place behind Davies, who had moved up to fifth in the meantime. A few laps later, the Dutchman also managed to overtake the Ducati riding Brit, only to return the position to him shortly thereafter.
In the meantime, the leading trio made up of Sykes, Rea and Melandri, was packed into seven tenths of a second.
During the fifteenth lap, Marco Melandri began making his bid for first place in earnest, attacking Jonathan Rea and successfully overtaking him to move into second place.
In the seventeenth lap it was a battle for sixth between the two factory Yamaha riders, while Melandri narrowed the gap behind Sykes to two tenths until overtaking him on the straight at the beginning of the nineteenth lap to take the race lead. On the following lap, the Italian Ducati rider widened the gap ahead of Sykes by six tenths and his teammate, Chaz Davies, moved into fourth position, overtaking Xavi Forés. In the meantime, Jordi Torres was forced to retire due to technical problems.
On the twenty-first lap, Jonathan Rea was forced to slow his pace and was overtaken first by Davies and then by Forés.
Marco Melandri finished first with an advantage of more than a second ahead of Tom Sykes in second place and more than nine seconds ahead of Chaz Davies who finished third.
WorldSBK Race 1 standings:
1) M. Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati)
2) T. Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)
3) C. Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati)
4) X. Forés (Barni Racing Team)
5) J. Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)
6) A. Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team)
7) L. Camier (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team)
8) E. Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia)
9) M. Van Der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team)
10) L. Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura)
11) L. Baz (GULF ALTHEA BMW Racing Team)
12) J. Gagne (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team)
13) T. Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing)
14) R. Ramos (Team GoEleven Kawasaki)
15) O. Jezek (Guandalini Racing)
16) P. Jacobsen (TripleM Honda World Superbike Team)
RT) J. Torres (MV Agusta Reparto Corse)
RT) T. Herfoss (Penrite Honda) - wild card
RT) Y. Hernandez (Team Pedercini Racing)
RT) D. Falzon (Yamaha Racing Team) - wild card
RT) W. Maxwell (Yamaha Racing Team) - one event
The Pirelli solutions chosen by the riders for WorldSBK Race 1:
For the race weekend, the WorldSBK riders have four front and three rear slick solutions available.
In Race 1, rider preference was equally divided for the rear between last year's reference race solution, the V0965 SC1 development tyre (option A), and the new development solution in a larger 200/65 size, the specific W1049 (option B).
As for the front, all the riders used the V0952 SC1 development solution (option C) with the exception of Chaz Davies who preferred to rely on the standard SC1 (option B).
Pirelli statistics for WorldSBK Race 1:
• Winner of the PIRELLI BEST LAP AWARD: Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK),in 1'30.971 at the 2nd lap
• Most used front solution: devolpment SC1 V0952 (20 out of 21 riders)
• Most used rear solution: devolpment SC1 V0965 (12 out of 21 riders)
• Maximum race speed reached by Pirelli DIABLO™ Superbike tyres: 313 km/h, achieved by Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati) in the 2nd lap
• Number of solutions (dry, intermediate and wet) for the Superbike class: 6 front and 6 rear
Number of tyres available for each Superbike rider: 75, including 40 front and 35 rear
• Air temperature: 20° C • Asphalt temperature: 34° C